Seamus Lawless search may not go ahead due to safety concerns, expert warns

Seamus Lawless

A recovery operation of an Irish father-of-one who fell from the world’s highest mountain may not go ahead due to safety concerns, a leading adventurer and mountaineer believes.

Twice Mount Everest summiteer Pat Falvey, who scaled the Himalayan mountain on two occasions, said it remains unclear how Séamus ‘Shay' Lawless, from Bray, Co Wicklow fell some 500 metres as he was descending from the 8,848 metres summit.

Mr Falvey said that over the next few days more information surrounding what exactly happened to Mr Lawless will be answered but that “a lot of questions currently remain.

The Cork native, was the first person in the world to complete the Seven Summits twice by climbing Mount Everest from its north and south sides.

The search operation has now been confirmed by the Seven Summits Treks company and by Mr Falvey as a recovery operation.

“If any type of search, rescue and recovery operation is planned it will not go ahead if it is too dangerous to do so. Paying to put the lives at risk such as the sherpas should not happen if weather conditions are not conducive to do so.

Sherpas, who are absolute experts in their field and go out of their way to recover injured and fatally wounded climbers despite the extraordinary dangers, would do so without being paid.

“A lot of questions need to be asked as to how Mr Lawless fell. From what I’m being told from the experts in Nepal is that he was only missed when Mr (Noel, group leader) Hanna went looking for him after they had descended down from summit to the nearest camp. Climbing was treacherous as there is little sun on that side of the mountain. It would be a massive task to bring him down from the balcony area where he was last seen.

“Normally, a climber has fixed ropes attached to them and is accompanied by a sherpa in a type of one-on-one situation.

“The fundraising campaign launched to help to locate Mr Lawless is to be commended. Unfortunately, no insurance company would sponsor you in the event of having a fatal injury.

It is an unwritten rule in mountaineering and especially in dangerous areas, that remains are often left there as a sign of respect to the person, the sherpas and the mountain.

“It could take weeks for fresh sherpas to carry out a recovery operation.

“There are still 700 people waiting to summit Everest but weather conditions for the past week have been horrendous and it is only now that they are starting to slowly improve. The winds alone would zap your energy. So much is stacked against you. It could be weeks before any type of a recovery operation could take place.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney speaking on RTÉ’s This Week radio programme said that he had spoken several times to Mr Lawless’s wife Pamela and committed to providing as much help as his department can. “She (Pamela) is a remarkable woman and we will continue to help her,” he said.

Mr Hanna has experienced another tragedy in his climbing career. In 2011, he was part of a team involved in another Everest summit attempt, where another Irishman and father-of-two John Delaney, 41, from Kilcock, Co Kildare died 50 metres from the Everest summit. His body remains on the mountain.

Earlier: Search for Seamus Lawless suspended until late next week as his parents attend Vigil in Trinity

The parents of the Irish man who has been missing on the world’s highest mountain attended a vigil for him organised and held at Trinity College.

Séamus Lawless, a father-of-one from Bray, Co Wicklow was fulfilling a life-long dream of reaching the summit of Mount Everest, which stands at 8,848m, before he reached his 40th birthday in July this year.

The assistant professor in artificial intelligence at Trinity College’s School of Computer Science and Statistics had successfully reached the summit on Thursday along with several others in his group of eight led by Co Down adventurer Noel Hanna - just hours before falling up to 500 metres.

Mr Lawless’ parents were accompanied by several other family members, relatives, friends and work colleagues. Trinity College Long Hall Room director Jane Ohlmeyer welcomed her work colleague’s parents and siblings to the vigil by saying she wanted everyone to know that they are with the missing man in spirit.

They sang a number of songs at the outdoor vigil including Raglan Road and the Auld Triangle.

Mingma Sherpa, the chairman of Seven Summit Treks in Nepal, which is leading the recovery operation said they hope to resume searching on Thursday or Friday when weather improves.

- Additional reporting Digital Desk

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